Entries from: California

Election Results Herald New Era In Long Beach Politics

garcia_slateThe election deciding the next public officeholders for Long Beach, Calif., have indicated a significant challenge to the status quo of longtime local politics. In the hotly contested race for city mayor, polls showed leading support for Robert Garcia, the current vice mayor and owner of local media site and newspaper the Long Beach Post. In a runoff election on June 3, Long Beach voters will have the opportunity to shatter new records and prove that the city is ready for representation that reflects its dynamic and diverse community. If elected, Garcia would be the first openly LGBT as well as first Latino mayor of Long Beach, a city that with nearly half a million people is the seventh-largest in California.

Garcia’s victory in a race packed tightly with other Democrats is further evidence that the political tides are turning towards a younger and more engaged generation of leaders. Garcia’s campaign impressed many when he surged ahead of powerful and deeply connected favorites in the California political machine, such as Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal – who received the endorsement of Gov. Jerry Brown –  and Long Beach City College Trustee Doug Otto. While Garcia’s sexual orientation did not really pose an issue in a city with a prominent LGBT community, the seasoned and well-funded heavyweights the 36-year old campaigned against is a testament to his forward-thinking agenda and strong record helping to improve the port city as vice mayor.

Heading into June, Garcia will now face off against Damon Dunn, a real estate investor and former NFL player who is a relative newcomer to Long Beach. The next mayor’s leadership chops will be put to the ultimate test, as they take the reins of a city that is still recovering from a tepid economy and rough-edged reputation. Garcia’s success would signal that a leader’s effective community stewardship and commitment to core values are taking far greater priority with voters over who they happen to love.

Out state lawmakers fight for transgender rights

tomammianoOpenly gay and lesbian state lawmakers are spearheading efforts in multiple states to pass laws protecting transgender people.

In California, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (pictured) is fighting to protect California’s transgender students from discrimination in schools. Last week, he introduced legislation that would grant students the right to use public school bathrooms and participate on sports teams that match their expressed genders, according to  the Associated Press.

Discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation is already illegal in California, but Ammiano’s bill would be the first in the country to specifically address transgender students’ right to use the restroom and join the sports team that corresponds with their gender identity.

Just next door, Nevada law does not currently protect people from discrimination based on gender identity. Pat Spearman, an openly lesbian state Senator, introduced a bill Monday that would make Nevada the next state to include gender identity in its hate crimes statute.

Sen. Spearman, who said she was the victim of an attack when she was 21, emphasized the importance of adding gender identity to existing hate crimes laws. “Whenever crimes are committed by perpetrators and they are clearly committed only on the basis of a particular aspect of that person’s characteristics, then I think justice requires us to act,” she told a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The Las Vegas Sun reported that supporters from the community filled the room, overflowing into the hall. No one present opposed the bill.

In Maryland, openly gay state Sen. Rich Madaleno and ally state Sen. Jamie Raskin have proposed the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013, which would add gender identity to the list of protected identities under the state’s hate crimes statute. The measure died in committee in 2012, but supporters are confident that the important bill will pass this year.

“Many of the most vulnerable people in the LGBT community are left with no legal protections in our state laws,” Sen. Madaleno said. “I come before you today as the sponsor of Senate Bill 449 with my good friend from Montgomery County and ask you to fix this omission and ensure that all Marylanders, including my transgender sisters and brothers, are afforded protection under our anti-discrimination laws.”

Governor O’Malley told the Washington Blade last week that he is “absolutely” reaching out to lawmakers to urge them to pass the bill.

Photo: Sacramento Bee

Legislation would end Scouts’ tax exemption in Calif.

lara221An openly gay California state senator has proposed a bill that would strip tax exempt status for youth organizations that openly discriminate.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara introduced the “Youth Equality Act” Tuesday in the midst of the nationwide debate over the Boy Scouts of America’s controversial anti-gay policy. If it passes, the legislation would revoke the tax exempt status of youth organizations (including student groups organized through private and public schools) who discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Our state values the important role that youth groups play in the empowerment of our next generation; this is demonstrated by rewarding organizations with tax exemptions supported financially by all Californians,” said Lara. “SB 323 seeks to end the unfortunate discriminatory and outdated practices by certain youth groups by revoking their tax exemption privilege should they not comply with our non-discrimination laws.”

Supporters of the bill say they recognize it directly targets the Boy Scouts’ discriminatory policy, particularly as the organization’s national leadership debates the rule throughout the coming months. The Board of the Boy Scouts is expected to reconsider its anti-gay policy in May.

“I thought it was necessary for California to make sure we don’t condone the discriminating practices of youth groups like the Boy Scouts of America,” Lara said. “We’ve given the Boy Scouts ample time, and they’ve chosen not to address this issue.”

The bill would require a two-thirds vote in the state legislature to pass.

California on track to have largest state legislative LGBT caucus

Cathleen GalgianiNine LGBT state legislative candidates won their primaries last night in California, setting it up to make history in November by electing the largest LGBT caucus ever.

“Congratulations to all of our legislative candidates in California who won their primaries last night,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund. “Their victories in November will give LGBT Californians a powerful, authentic voice in the Capitol and send a message across the country that LGBT people can be leaders and succeed.”

California and Maryland both currently have eight openly LGBT state legislators. While this is Christine Kehoe’s last year in the California State Senate due to term limits, the election of Susan Eggman (State Assembly, District 13) and Luis Lopez (State Assembly, District 51) in November would make California’s LGBT Caucus the largest ever.

Also victorious in their California state legislative primaries last night were incumbents Tom Ammiano (State Assembly, District 17), Toni Atkins (State Assembly, District 78), Richard Gordon (State Assembly, District 24), Ricardo Lara (State Senate, District 33), Mark Leno (State Senate, District 11), John A. Pérez (State Assembly, District 53), and Cathleen Galgiani (pictured), who is currently in the State Assembly and running for State Senate, District 5.

Elsewhere in California, Steve Hansen advanced through his primary and is on track to become the first openly LGBT member of the Sacramento City Council. In San Diego, Todd Gloria won a decisive primary for a seat on the San Diego City Council and Dave Roberts will advance to the general election for a seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

Out city councilman focuses on technology and the future

People raised in Silicon Valley generally have a healthy respect for technology, and Campbell, Calif., Vice Mayor Evan Low is no different.  Born in 1983 in San Jose, Low has become a leader in moving his community toward technology-based energy solutions, environmental sustainability and growth management.
In 2009 Low’s city council peers elected him to a one-year term as mayor, making him one of the youngest openly gay and youngest Asian-American mayors in America.  Now in his second term on the council, Low is focused on his community’s future.  Gay Politics spoke to him about his work on energy and sustainability issues.
GP:  Why is this issue so important to you?
EL:  This is my home.  It’s where I want to start a family.  Nothing is more important than building the future of your own community.  A big part of that is making sure it’s environmentally sustainable and fiscally sound, and that’s about making the right choices now.  As an elected official, I can choose to follow public opinion or I can help to lead it.  I’m interested in learning about our options and then helping people make the right decisions.
GP:  You’re big on the intersection of technology and sustainability.  What’s the thinking behind that?
EL:  Well, all of us in Silicon Valley are pretty sold on the promise of technology, but it’s not just because it happens to be our economic engine.  We’re the world leaders in creating technology to inform, entertain, protect and help manage our lives.  And we’ll help create the technology that will answer some of the toughest energy and environmental challenges faced around the world.
GP:  Can you give us an example?
EL:  Sure.  Right now we’re trying to take advantage of technology to build a smarter energy grid and help people understand their own energy usage better.  One part of that is installing smart meters that give families much more detailed and useful information about their energy usage at home.  It also allows energy suppliers to more accurately and efficiently deliver energy where and when its needed most.
GP:  How will that help the region become more environmentally sustainable?
EL:  The old saying is right:  information is power.  A lot of newer cars these days–especially hybrids–include gauges that let a driver know how efficiently the car is performing.  Drive like you’re in a race car and you see that efficiency rating drop, so there’s an incentive right in front of you to lay off the gas pedal–maybe boost your miles-per-gallon.  Knowing more about our own energy usage will help us become more energy aware and more efficient.  That will lower costs, lower emissions, and help us predict much more accurately our future energy needs.
GP:  And how do you, as an elected official, play a part in that?
EL:  The question for us as city officials is whether the city is going to take a lead in trying to adopt some of these policies and help educate people about their benefits.  That’s a policy question, but it’s also one about outreach and information and, yes, leadership.  That’s what I’m trying to do now around the issue of smart meters–explain how these can have a positive impact on our community’s future.
GP:  What other priorities are you working on?
EL:  We need similar solutions to challenges like reducing our water usage.  I’m also interested in how you make communities more walkable so that we rely less on cars.  I think all of these issues are definitely intertwined.  There’s an incentive for me as a young person to help shape how we think about these issues now so that when I’m raising kids here it will still be a beautiful and balanced place to live.

evanlowThis is the second post in our series “Out Leaders in Public Policy,” highlighting openly LGBT leaders working in public policy areas that affect the broader population.

People raised in Silicon Valley generally have a healthy respect for technology, and Campbell, Calif., Vice Mayor Evan Low is no different.  Born in 1983 in San Jose, Low has become a leader in moving his community toward technology-based energy solutions, environmental sustainability and growth management.

In 2009 Low’s city council peers elected him to a one-year term as mayor, making him one of the youngest openly gay and youngest Asian-American mayors in America.  Now in his second term on the council, Low is focused on his community’s future.  Gay Politics spoke to him about his work on energy and sustainability issues.

GP:  Why is this issue so important to you?

EL:  This is my home.  It’s where I want to start a family.  Nothing is more important than building the future of your own community.  A big part of that is making sure it’s environmentally sustainable and fiscally sound, and that’s about making the right choices now.  As an elected official, I can choose to follow public opinion or I can help to lead it.  I’m interested in learning about our options and then helping people make the right decisions.

GP:  You’re big on the intersection of technology and sustainability.  What’s the thinking behind that?

EL:  Well, all of us in Silicon Valley are pretty sold on the promise of technology, but it’s not just because it happens to be our economic engine.  We’re the world leaders in creating technology to inform, entertain, protect and help manage our lives.  And we’ll help create the technology that will answer some of the toughest energy and environmental challenges faced around the world.

GP:  Can you give us an example?

EL:  Sure.  Right now we’re trying to take advantage of technology to build a smarter energy grid and help people understand their own energy usage better.  One part of that is installing smart meters that give families much more detailed and useful information about their energy usage at home.  It also allows energy suppliers to more accurately and efficiently deliver energy where and when its needed most. Continue reading »